In January, it’s traditional to summarize the events of the previous year, but there weren’t any, or to announce resolutions for the next year, but I know better than to make those.
Well, I do have a couple of goals: to keep the COVID-19 virus out of the Davis household (and everywhere else I can) and to be vaccinated (which, every time I check online, looks like it’ll happen before 2022, maybe).
Anyway, I’ll begin 2021 with another story told by Aunt Bettie Pittman Waller. She was known for telling the truth, never embroidering, and she was an eye-witness. She was sixteen years old. She lived down the street from the Barber family, and Miss Annie Barber was a special friend. I think they later taught school together for several years. The Normal she mentioned was a teachers’ college in San Marcos, Texas, which is now Texas State University.
I’ve used most of the real names because I don’t think their families will object. But a young man remains anonymous. Aunt Bettie also mentioned one particular detail about him but then said, “You don’t need to put that in,” so I didn’t. It’s nothing derogatory, just funny, but it doesn’t change the story.
The story is taken from the tape of an interview I did with Aunt Bettie.
This really happened at Mr. Barber’s house when Callie and Maud were little. I know, because I was there, too, and some other children—Jessie Daugherty was one—and we were all interested in Mattie’s beau. Annie was in San Marcos then, at the Normal, in 1902.
Mattie was going with a boy—Louis S____. Annie boarded with Mr. S____’s family. He was a grocery salesman who came to Fentress once a week. He was very religious and would time his trips so he could come to day services when we were having a meeting; we had them about ten o’clock.
Well, Mattie had a date with Louis S____—he was just a youngster like Mattie—and he was to come at about five o’clock. He had a horse and buggy.
Mr. Barber’s house set fronting south, like the house does now, but it was closer to the road, because when the highway went through they set it way over. Mr. Barber had a well or a cistern, either word would do, by the door of the dining room, and people could see the well from the road.
They had a pet pig that had grown to a hog, but they still just called it “the pig.” They fed it out by the well in front of the house, away from the other pigs. And they let it in the house. They couldn’t keep it out, because it had learned to push around the buttons on the porch and open the door.
But they sure weren’t going to let it in when Louis came to see Mattie, and all the children were working to see that it stayed out. They tried hard.
But the pig got in the back door and ran through the house with all the children following and ran out the front, squealing, just as Louis drove up.
As the pig ran out of the dining room door, Mag looked up at Mattie and said, “Mat, he won’t be back!” And Louis didn’t ever come back. I don’t think they ever invited him.
I just think, if the pig had been kept out, life might have been different for Mattie.
Two stories about the first months of Aunt Bettie and Uncle Maurice’s marriage appear at Ink-Stained Wretches.’
The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it.
~ Victoria Arlen & Chloe Davis-Waller
An hour ago, Ernest had his monthly dose of anti-flea medication.
Process: David sprayed calming spray and gave it time to take effect, then dragged Ernest out from under the china cabinet, put him on my lap, and held him steady while I squeezed the little droplets onto the back of his neck.
Afterward, David retreated to the bedroom to dose William, who is perpetually calm.
Ernest has been sitting beside me, in the same position, staring down the hallway, ever since David left. I think he would like to crawl back under the china cabinet, but he’s too calm to move.
But he is vigilant. Ever vigilant. He never knows when an enemy agent might assault him with essential oils and pheremones.
And what then? The possibilities are too terrible to imagine.
He’s heard about flea baths.
Ernest felt fine when he woke this morning, but then he was unceremoniously hauled down to the vet’s for labs, blood draw, glucose and fructosamine, all that, and now he feels exposed, defenseless, in need of laptime. So that’s what he’s getting.
I didn’t want to work anyway.
Ernest having abandoned the keyboard for more interesting pursuits, I type unhindered.
I planned a brief statement about a cat and a keyboard, nothing else, but as Wednesday appears to have rolled around while my back was turned, I’ll add the #ROW80 report.
The goal I stated Sunday was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Roughly 1,000 words per week—written and submitted to my critique group—would answer.
At five o’clock Monday morning, however, my body told my brain that I wasn’t going to add 1,000 words to anything, and my brain said my body was oh, so right about that.
On Tuesday, my body said I could add some words if I wanted, but my brain said Monday’s meltdown had been so demoralizing that it had no intention of contributing one independent thought, thank you very much.
In other words, I’m where I was on Sunday.
Except I’m really a little further back than that, because I just realized the post I prepared to link to my #ROW80 announcement—which I’d put up on the group blog Ink-Stained Wretches—was never posted here at all. I didn’t click Publish. It’s been sitting here in draft form for three days, just sitting, waiting for something to happen that never happened.
A lot like that proposed 1,000 words.
Well. Four more days in this week. Twenty-nine more days in the month.
See § 2, ¶ 3 above.
Onward and upwards, I guess.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. — Herman Melville
When it’s November, I give thanks summer is over and 100-degree weather temporarily behind us.
This November I gave thanks for the veterinarian.
While was in Dallas at a writing conference, David noticed symptoms of diabetes and took Ernest in for confirmation and treatment. I asked how he got the cat into the carrier. “With great difficulty,” he said.
After I returned home, we took him back to the doctor for gastric problems related to his new dietary regimen. The next day, he seemed to be in worse shape, so we took him back. Because he doesn’t like injections any more than he likes the carrier, we hadn’t been able to give him insulin, so that afternoon, before releasing him, the vet gave him a shot.
That night about midnight, in the dark, I stepped on a furry mass beside the bed and turned on the light. Guess who. Ernest. That was a surprise, since he usually sleeps under the bed. When I picked him up, another miracle occurred—he tolerated it. He doesn’t like to be picked up and held either. He felt like a rag doll. David rubbed honey on his gums, and we headed for the animal ER/hospital (where he went several years ago after eating thread).
By the time we arrived, his blood sugar was 25, so he stayed for an IV and monitoring. At dawn–6:00 a.m., but it felt like dawn—we took him back to our vet for further monitoring. At 5:00 p.m, on the vet’s advice, we delivered him to the hospital for 24 to 36 hours of monitoring. The vet who had given him the insulin was amazed his glucose plummeted like that. The next afternoon, we picked him up.
He’s doing well now. We hoped his diabetes could be controlled by diet, but he’s taking injections from David as if they’re no big deal. We watch him for hypoglycemia.
I don’t know whether I could inject him. He and David have always been buds. David is calm, so in David’s sphere, Ernest is calm. I energize him, so he marches around on me and sits on the arm of the chair and pulls on my sleeve. To give him his due, he’s learned to “liiiiiieeeeeeee dowwwwwwwwwwwn” after hearing me plead not too many times. But he has no intention of learning, “Stop pulling on my sleeve.”
On the topic of energy, since retiring, I’ve realized I energized my students, too, more’s the pity. They didn’t need energizing.
Anyway, November, to me, will always be The Month of the Hypoglycemic Cat.
And on a less alarming note, the The Month It Is Cooler, and in 2019, Damp and Drizzly, and Sometimes Even Rainy, Which is Nice.
I shouldn’t say this, lest it embarrass him, but in the hospital, Ernest’s legs were shaved so veins could be accessed, and now he looks like a 1950s lady wearing a fur coat with three-quarter sleeves and gauntlet gloves.
Note the elegant tilt of the head.
The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it.
~ Victoria Arlen & Chloe Davis-Waller
William and Ernest.
As I recently posted, Ernest and I are having a disagreement over seating positions. My body and my massage therapist tell me I have to sit up straight and hold the laptop right in front of me. Ernest says he’s supposed to be right in front and the laptop can snuggle up to someone else.
I haven’t won, but, on the positive side, I’ve had to see the massage therapist only four times, and I now stand almost upright when I walk. In addition, I no longer get into the car like Audrey Hepburn. (That’s really more of a negative.)
Ernest spends more time than he used to sitting on David’s lap, he stares at me with an expression that implies he’s planning some outrage.
This evening we compromised. He curled up with his front on my leg, his head on the arm of the chair, and a narrow gap between. Because I feel guilty, I let him put his head on the keypad and, to keep him from sending emails, played Candy Crush. Then I moved my leg–it was numb–and he slid down, stretched out, and ended up squashed between me and the arm of the chair.
I took photos. They didn’t turn out–angle and proximity made it hard to get a good shot–but you might be able to get hint of our predicament. My predicament, really. As long as I rubbed his tummy, he didn’t care where he was. I don’t think he even noticed.
William occupied himself this afternoon with walking back and forth across the keyboard and me in pursuit of a bowl of granola bar crumbs that I kept moving back and forth so he couldn’t get to it. He’s so big and heavy (and determined) that when he decides to walk on the keyboard, he walks on it.
Nineteen pounds at his last checkup, down from twenty-three. I calculated the other day–I used to bowl with a ten-pound ball, and it wasn’t easy to lift. William is worth two bowling balls.
When he was a kitten, he would race me to my chair. Seeing me approach it, he would run across the room to get there first. It was both cute and annoying. I thought he wanted the chair. After a while, he stopped.
Lately he’s been doing it again, and I’ve realized he just wants to be petted. But he doesn’t want to give up the chair. I feel guilty for not snuggling with him nine years ago, so I push and pull him to one side of the chair and squeeze into the other–it’s a big chair, and we almost fit. Sometimes he stays wedged between me and the arm. Sometimes he struggles to crawl around to my lap.
If he jumps up when the computer is already in my lap, there’s no question of working. It’s all about him.
Well, that’s the update on William and Ernest. If I weren’t so sleepy, I would write something else–something brilliant, something scholarly and profound, cogent even, displaying my remarkable erudition–but on this Day V, the tale of two tabbies is all the farther I can go.
I learned all the farther from a co-worker who hailed from Minnesota. I love it. It’s in my personal lexicon to use on occasions such as this.
WordPress suggests I use yabbies instead of tabbies. Nah. Good word, but it doesn’t fit.
William visited the vet Monday to assess the efficacy of the weight loss program he began in December.
Before continuing, I’ll note the difference between this visit and the one last December: On Monday, David took William for his checkup, and a good time was had by all. In December, I took him, and he bit me, and I had to go the emergency clinic so my arm wouldn’t fall off. And the vet tech was doing the same thing to him both times. But I needed a tetanus shot anyway.
To resume–I wasn’t surprised when David reported there had been no efficacy at all.
For the past three months, we’ve fed the guys less, and better quality, cat food, but William’s waistline hasn’t shrunk. Neither has Ernest’s, and he could stand some shrinkage, too. They rarely ate all they were fed. But even less food was too much.
Solution: No more grazing. No more nocturnal snacking. When they finish a meal, food disappears. That’s it. No more. Nada.
Today we began serious dieting. Breakfast was served between 10:00 a.m. and noon. (I got a late start, so they did, too.) They left half uneaten. I trashed it. Dinner would be served at 6:00
In the early afternoon, they appeared in the living room. Ernest did his usual thing–positioned his posterior on the arm of the recliner and propped his front end on my shoulder, then tried to scooch the rest of the way across and drape himself over the rest of me. I can’t see the keyboard that way, so I did my usual thing and resisted.
But William did the unusual–he sat in front of my chair and stared at me.
By mid-afternoon, I felt like a swimmer in a shark tank. I typed, they circled. Then both sat and stared. Then they sashayed back and forth from me to the empty dishes.William meowed. Most days he speaks only to Ernest and to David, and in a conversational tone. My meow sounded like a cuss word.
I promised their papá would serve dinner at the appointed time.
An hour later, the situation had worsened . They trotted around the house at my heels. They emitted faint little mews: “Please, sir, may I have some more?”
I truly sympathized. I felt their pain. I suggested they do something to take their minds off their stomachs. That’s what I do.
Such as, once about a zillion years ago, when I was in the third week of a medically supervised liquid fast, I took my mind off my stomach by feeding the sad, hungry stray dog that had occupied the garage for a week, thus ensuring I would feed him the next day, and the next, and every day after that for the rest of his life.
(And to put minds at ease, I’ll add that what the other participants in the program and I commonly called a fast was not the kind Gandhi went on, that doctors were in charge, that I was adequately fed, and, after the third week, not hungry, and that I never felt so good in my life as I did during the seven months I lived on 520 calories a day. There is nothing so energizing as a ketosis high.)
Well, anyway, the guys pooh-poohed the stray dog idea and kept on channeling Oliver Twist.
I couldn’t stand it. “Three bites, I will give each of you three bites. That’s it. Three bites.”
Ernest vacuumed up his bites as soon as they hit the dish. William sat on his haunches, looked at the kibble, looked at Ernest, looked at the kibble, looked at me. I’ve known for a long time that William is passive aggressive.
Finally I said something like, “Eat the (*$))T(#@^&^ food.” I don’t approve of strong language, but I was trying to hold Ernest back from invading William’s territory and scarfing down a total of six bites. Cussing seemed right. Especially since William had already cussed at me.
When he was ready, William ate, slowly and daintily. He then padded into the living room and lay down on his rug. Poor old Ernest kept on begging. His metabolism is faster than William’s. He moves around more. Sometimes it seems William has no metabolism at all.
And that’s what makes this kitty diet challenging–two cats, different needs. Could I try feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door?
Not unless I want the door to be shredded. Which I don’t.
It’s now nearly midnight. Two kitty dishes sit on the kitchen floor. They’ve been there for four hours, too long, really. One is empty. The other appears untouched.
Ernest just ate a bit more and now sits on his rug, washing his face. William sits there washing his feet. I don’t know when he last partook.
I wish I could make them understand that soon I will remove both dishes. When they want their midnight, or whenever, snack, it won’t be there.
I don’t want them to overeat. I want them to satisfy their nutritional needs. I want them to eat enough. Just enough.
Just enough to keep them from goose stepping all over me in the middle of the night.
Just enough to stave off hunger pangs so I may wake in the morning, all by myself, refreshed, no cat standing on the pillow batting at my nose.
Just enough. Oh, sure.
William bit me at the vet,
Didn’t like the aide’s assistance,
Used his claws and fangs to set
On the path of most resistance.
Say I’m teary, say I’m mad,
Say that pills and needles hit me,
Say my arm’s inflamed, and add,
William bit me.
Jane Carlyle, wife of philosopher Thomas Carlyle, was not a demonstrative woman. But one day when writer Leigh Hunt arrived for a visit, Jane jumped up from her chair, ran across the room, and kissed him. Surprised and delighted, Hunt memorialized the event in a poem: “Jenny Kissed Me.”
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
My apologies to Mr. Hunt and Mrs. Carlyle. I mean no disrespect. I couldn’t have written the parody if I didn’t love the poem.